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Effects Of Sleep Apnea If Left Untreated

By Chuck Granade       07/02/2018

Sleep apnea is a condition that can be controlled through a combination of medication, medical devices such as a CPAP machine and lifestyle changes. However, people who have sleep apnea may not currently be using the proper treatment to alleviate their sleep apnea symptoms. Whether the reason for not seeking treatment is because they do not know they have sleep apnea or are afraid to find out their diagnosis, we want to support you in seeking the right treatment for you or your loved one.

Negative Side Effects if Left Untreated

If sleep apnea is left untreated, it can have negative effects on your body. The most common cause of all medical side effects is due to the loss of oxygen and the buildup of carbon dioxide because of lower rates of gas exchange. The lack of oxygen forces the heart to beat faster which can lead to a host of negative consequences.

These side effects will range from mild to severe and can progress over time the longer it is left untreated. Some of the most common cardiac side effects of untreated sleep apnea are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

It is thought that sleep apnea increases the risk for high blood pressure because restless sleep or waking up during the night alters the body’s hormonal cycle and raises blood pressure when it is supposed to be at its lowest. Cardiac risks are due to the heart having to work harder to pump blood. Some specialists believe people with untreated sleep apnea have a three times greater risk of stroke than those who do not have sleep apnea. Other studies have found that long-term untreated sleep apnea has a two and a half higher chance of a cancer diagnosis than those who did not have this condition.

Additional Primary Negative Side Effects:
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Weight gain
  • Hypothyroidism

Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea are both tied to obesity. However, it is also thought that sleep apnea can increase the chance of type 2 diabetes because waking up during the night changes the way that your body processes insulin. A good night’s sleep is also very important to maintaining a healthy weight. Untreated sleep apnea causes restless sleep which can increase weight gain. The extra weight can exacerbate sleep apnea symptoms and turn into an endless cycle of negative health effects.

Secondary Side Effects

A secondary risk that we want to caution people about who have or know someone that has untreated sleep apnea is that all of these primary medical complications can lead to other complications. For example, if a person with untreated sleep apnea has a stroke, they can then have limited mobility and neurological impairments, causing them to need assistance with day-to-day tasks, This is why it is important to limit the time sleep apnea is left untreated or undiagnosed.

A complication that many people may not even consider is that untreated or undiagnosed sleep apnea can significantly increase your risk of complications from surgery or anesthesia. After surgery, people are frequently sedated and immobile. We want to make you aware that physicians such as anesthesiologists are able to treat for possible complications when they know a person has sleep apnea. Without knowing that you have sleep apnea, you can’t let the medical team know of possible complications.

Severe, long-term, untreated sleep apnea can lead to death. If you have untreated sleep apnea, you are four times more likely to die in your sleep than someone without sleep apnea or with treated sleep apnea. This is significantly different than the general population who are more likely to die from an abnormal heart rhythm in the first few hours after they wake up, rather than when they are sleeping.

More Than Just Exhaustion

Untreated sleep apnea can also take a toll on your emotional and psychological well-being. Not getting enough sleep and not getting enough oxygen can lead to irritability, mood swings, headaches and insomnia. These conditions can range from mildly annoying to debilitating. It is thought that headaches are due to a lack of oxygen which, over time, can lead to memory impairment. The lack of oxygen to the brain increases free radicals, which can cause damage to the brain over time.

Due to not getting enough rest the odds of driving or work accidents also increase significantly. In the year 2000, there were 800,000 accidents that could be partially attributed to sleep apnea. If you drive for a living with a CDL license, you’ll want to look into our Occupational Medicine section of this site. In fact, people with sleep apnea are five times as likely to get into car accidents than their well-rested counterparts. There are also side effects related to your personal life or relationships. Experiencing poor sleep and waking up tired, may lead to negative growth in your relationship with your significant other due to the symptoms of sleep apnea and also cause you to not be as productive when you are working.

Untreated sleep apnea can affect many areas of your life. To reduce medical complications and improve your personal relationships, make sure to investigate further if you believe you or someone you know has sleep apnea. At Home Sleep Delivered, we want you to have the best quality of life possible. With our home sleep testing, we can help you to identify if you or your loved one suffers from sleep apnea and then provide the quality products and unparalleled support needed to ensure you get a better night’s sleep, night after night.